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Ask Andrew: July 12th

From the editor: Welcome to the third edition of our new “Ask Andrew” column. To submit your own “Ask Andrew” question please click here.


From Angela in Dallas, OR
What do you mean by “make numbers sing” when teaching math?

Angela, this is a tough question to answer, but what I mean is that you can perceive the beauty of the patterns without a lot of effort. You start to feel numbers in your bones. The literal way of describing it might be that you learn the properties of numbers, but that doesn’t really capture the idea.

Take a look at this video. It is not numbers singing because it is appealing to your ear. But if you can imagine how your mind has a parallel pleasure when it sees the patterns even without the senses, then you are moving toward understanding what I mean.

Students who are taught to contemplate numbers instead of just processing them are more likely to see this dance.

From Sharaya,
How would you describe the best classroom management for a classical, Christian school?

Hi Sharaya,

I suppose the first thing I would recommend is to contact Debbie Harris, who has insights into this that are so profound I was compelled to bring her onto the CiRCE consulting team. But for a brief answer that fits here, let me make a few suggestions.

First, classroom culture is more important than classroom management. It must be an orderly culture, but one driven by inquiry, not just rules. It must be filled with trust between teacher and student, and the teacher must labor everyday to earn that trust, which the student yearns to give her. The teacher must be devoted to helping the student grow toward his own blessedness. Some teachers don’t like or trust children. They should do something else.

Children should know what is expected of them and not fear that they have offended the teacher inadvertently. When children misbehave, I recommend what I call the DESK process, which involves four steps:

  1. Describe to them (calmly) what they have done. Not “stop tapping your pen on your desk” but “You are tapping your pen on the desk.”
    If you need to do more,
  2. Explain to them (calmly) why it was wrong to do it and/or what the effects are of their actions. “When you tap the pen on the desk you distract Charlie.”
    If necessary,
  3. Specify the right action. “Rather than tap your pen on the desk, use it to write notes.”
    If necessary,
  4. Kill them. No, just kidding. K is a mis-spelling of konsequences. Tell them (calmly) the konsequences of not altering their behavior. Make sure you are prepared for this. For example, “If you continue to tap your pen, I will have to take it away from you for the rest of this class.”

I have always found that I can function more calmly when I have these four steps available. It buys me time to think about how to hurt respond to the student.

I also recommend that when you get really angry (and long before that too) you pray the prayer of the Publican: “Lord, have mercy on ME, the sinner.”

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